Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Marvel and DC: Side-by-Side in 1965


1965

Doug: I'm cheating here, a bit. I looked ahead through this year's entry in the DC Comics: Year-by-Year book. Yeah -- you know how last week I said DC would make a comeback in 1964? This year of 1965, I'm thinking -- not so much. But we shall allow you to be the judges. In 1965, the political turmoil that would eventually envelop the decade was underway, as in February Malcolm X was assassinated. In April, 25,000 students marched against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC; at the University of Michigan, faculty staged a "teach-in" as a non-violent protest against the war. In the entertainment world, My Fair Lady won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture (The Sound of Music was also released that year, as was Dr. Zhivago), and the Beatles played the first stadium concert in the history of rock 'n' roll when they appeared at New York's Shea Stadium.

Doug: At the House of Ideas, January brought us that lovable loser Max Gargan -- the Scorpion! Amazing Spider-Man #20 served as a great example of the chemistry Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had been cooking up in Spidey's mag; many of you readers commented on ASM being perhaps the lone Marvel mag that was good from the get-go. I think much of that had to do with Spidey's supporting cast, and J. Jonah Jameson was certainly in the thick of this one! February saw the dawning of Count Nefaria and the Maggia in Avengers #13; you can click here to see John Byrne's take on the ol' Count. Also in February Dragon Man debuted in Fantastic Four #35, the same issue in which Reed Richards proposed to Susan Storm, and the Mighty Thor revealed his secret to Jane Foster in Journey Into Mystery #113. Man, love was in the air... In March, DD changed from yellow to red in Daredevil #7, an issue that featured a really good tale involving a battle with the Sub-Mariner. The Absorbing Man's first appearance was in Journey Into Mystery #114, and in Strange Tales #130, the Thing and the Torch took their dates to a Beatles concert. Hey, this stuff keeps rolling -- also in March, the Frightful Four first menaced the Fantastic Four in FF #36 -- a book that also featured the debut of future ally Madame Medusa! And over in X-Men #10, Ka-Zar appeared for the first time in comics since his inaugural appearance in Marvel Comics #1, back in October of 1939! Tell me this wasn't a Happy New Year from Marvel!!

Karen: I do agree that ASM was a good book right off the block, and I can't help but think that perhaps it was Lee's favorite title to work on. The soap opera aspects of it seem to be one of his strengths as a writer. All in all a very strong period for Marvel here-again. You know, while Daredevil's red costume is clearly superior to his yellow and black/red one, I kind of like the idea of the blind guy having a hideous costume!

Doug: Call it hideous if you will, but I've seen some versions of that first suit where it wasn't yellow and crimson, but more yellow and maroon -- sort of gives off that brown and yellow motif. Yuck.

Doug: At the Distinguished Competition, Metamorpho first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #57, cover-dated January 1965. He was brought to readers by writer Bob Haney and artist Ramona Fradon (later of Super Friends fame). Once a soldier-of-fortune, Rex Mason was trapped by a baddie in a pyramid and subjected to some bad stuff. Hence, he'd be not-too-smart, yet able to change his body into any element. Strange story, yet the character endures to the present. In February, writer Robert Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert introduced Enemy Ace, an WWI fighter pilot based on the Red Baron (Our Army at War #151).

Karen: I've always thought that Metamorpho is a visually striking character, but I've read almost nothing featuring him. DC certainly had some strong ideas for characters but with the exception of some of the Legion stories from this time period, I just find Silver Age DC incredibly silly, and frankly, boring.

Doug: Marvel's next three months were somewhat slower, but maybe no less significant for two reasons: the first big line-up change for the Avengers came in issue #16, when three former super-baddies were brought into the fold. Stilt-Man fought ol' Hornhead for the first time in Daredevil #8, cover-dated June, but the other big news I alluded to occured in that same month when a certain red-headed bombshell told our hero how he'd hit the jackpot in Amazing Spider-Man #42.

Karen: The change in the Avengers line-up was huge, looking back now. Lee dumped a team of characters who for the most part had their own books for a bunch of nobodies. On top of that, the team went down tremendously in power. And you know what? It became a more interesting book! It's that old idea of how you can take characters who appear nowhere else and do anything you want with them. The relationships between the characters now became of central importance. Foremost among these was the head-strong, arrogant Hawkeye always butting heads with Cap. So of course they eventually became great friends.

Doug: In the spring, the Riddler made his Silver Age debut in Batman #171, cover-dated May. How pivotal was that, concerning the upcoming television show -- was there a more memorable super-villain on that show than Frank Gorshin's Riddler? That same month The Brave and the Bold #59 took a new direction, beginning the Batman team-ups; Batman's first guest was the Green Lantern. The team-up book genre would of course become a Bronze Age staple.

Karen: I was wondering why Batman got a team-up book instead of Superman. One idea that occurred to me was that Batman, having no super-powers, might allow for a wider array of heroes to team-up with? After all, anyone teaming with Superman seems like a fifth wheel. But perhaps Batman was already more popular than the Man of Steel, and that was the true reason?

Doug: As this was a year ahead of the TV show, I'm going to guess that was not a factor. Great point on anyone being inferior in the presence of Superman. A major problem with the character. Kryptonite got so tired as a plot device, but they had to have an Achilles' heel somehow.

Doug: Marvel's summer output saw the introductions of some characters (and an organization) who endure -- sometimes prominently -- to the present. July covers featured the Juggernaut (X-Men #12), Crime-Master (ASM #26), and the Destroyer (a fave of mine, in Journey Into Mystery #118). August saw the premiere of SHIELD in Strange Tales #135, the Swordsman in Avengers #19, and the Warriors Three in Journey Into Mystery #119; in Tales to Astonish #70 Namor knocked Giant-Man out of the very book Dr. Pym has inhabited since TTA issue #35. In September, the Molten Man menaced Spidey in ASM #28, the same issue Peter Parker graduated from high school. Stan and Jack debuted Hercules and the gods of Olympus the same month in Journey Into Mystery Annual #1. Again, that's an amazing amount of growth in the Marvel pantheon.

Karen: No kidding, it's astonishing how many enduring characters came out of these early years. Thor was entering into one of the finest periods of the title's existence, with threats such as the Destroyer, and the introduction of the Greek gods to the Marvel universe. The appearance of SHIELD, no doubt inspired by the popularity of spy films at the time, created a group that could be used in practically any title to serve plot needs. The loss of his own title (or half-title) was surely a blow to Pym which I don't think the character ever recovered from. However he would return to the Avengers in the near future, and perhaps that was the best place for him in any case.

Doug: In regard to characters with growth powers, I thought an interesting wrinkle on the concept was a few years ago -- I believe it was in the 37th rebooting of the Legion -- where the concept of Colossal Boy was that he was a natural giant, and his power was to shrink. Flipside, turned tables, whatever -- added an interesting twist to the history. But the problems are still the same... how do you make a guy like that interesting issue in and issue out?

Doug: Of course, above I mentioned the "new direction" for B&B. Well, wouldn't you know that The Brave and the Bold #60, just one issue removed from the first Batman team-up, would feature the second appearance of the Teen Titans, sans Batman of course. In this issue, beautifully rendered by Nick Cardy, Wonder Girl joined the club against some goofy looking purple monster. As legend goes, writer Bob Haney and Cardy saw Wonder Girl in an old issue of Wonder Woman, yet did no further research. That story was actually about Wonder Woman as a child; there was no Wonder Girl! It would be four years before this young lady would have an origin! In September's Strange Adventures #180, Animal Man made his debut. Produced by writer Dave Wood and artist Carmine Infantino, Buddy Baker originally displayed the power to temporarily take on the powers of any animal within his reach; it would be a few issues before he actually called himself Animal Man.

Karen: Can you imagine what would happen if a mistake like the one with Wonder Girl happened today? The internet would be aflame!

Doug: Our DC resource gives us one entry for the winter months of '65, and it's relatively important for Bronze Agers. The Doom Patrol #99 featured the first appearance of Beast Boy, known later to fans of the New Teen Titans as Changeling. Garfield Logan was created by writer Arnold Drake and artist Bob Brown.

Doug: Marvel, on the other hand, finished strong. The end of the year was another rapid-fire series of character firsts: Power Man in Avengers #21 in October, the wedding of Reed and Sue in FF Annual #3 and the 1st appearance of the Sentinels in X-Men #14 in November. December featured a wake-up call for the Sleepers, Nazi-era robots who menaced the Star-Spangled Avengers in Tales of Suspense #72. Amazing Spider-Man #31 gave us the debuts of Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn, while the Inhumans graced the Marvel Universe for the first time in FF #45. Lastly, the very first Marvel script from the Rascally One, Roy Thomas, was published in the December issue of Modeling With Millie (#44).

Karen: I really love the wedding of Reed and Sue, which I first read in reprint form. It's just a huge mash-up but fun as heck. The FF was certainly the powerhouse of Marvel titles by 1965 -by the end of the year, we had Sinnott on board regularly, and the Inhumans had just debuted, again expanding the Marvel universe. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, runs in comic book history had just begun.

9 comments:

dbutler16 said...

I actually think that Avengers #16 is the biggest event of the year, followed by Reed proposing to/marrying Sue, then perhaps the debuts of Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. I agree with Karen that just about the only really good DC Silver Age tales are the Legion ones.
DC had some moments, such as the new B&B format, but Marvel definitely wins this year. By the way, in terms of sales, Superman was way ahead of Batman throughout the 60’s (http://www.comichron.com/yearlycomicssales/1960s/1965.html) which I find surprising, considering the Batman TV show. Anyway, I agree that Superman is too powerful for a monthly team-up book. Funny story about Wonder Girl, a character with an incredibly convoluted history, by the way.
Even though it’s a bit clichéd, I love the Journey Into Mystery you’ve posted. Maybe in part because it reminds me of the first superhero comic I ever bought – Fantastic Four #172 (http://www.comics.org/issue/30017/cover/4/).

dbutler16 said...

By the way, I just looked at some more years in the link I posted, and Batman did surge to #1 in 1966 and 1967, so the TV show obviously did give its sales a big boost. Other than that one title, though, the 60's was dominated by Superman and Archie.

Sean Strange said...

To sophisticated modern comic fans, Marvel obviously smokes DC during this period of their universe’s “Big Bang”. I used to be one of those who hated the silliness of Silver Age DC’s, but I’ve developed an appreciation for their bizarro creativity; there are some Silver Age DC’s that are so zany that one might think the supposedly conservative company had their water supply spiked with LSD as part of some nefarious CIA mind control plot.

You have to look at Silver Age DC through the eyes of their target audience, which was young children; at that age the world is surreal and magical, and the silly stuff going on in the DCU makes a crazy kind of sense. Eight year-olds don’t care about social relevance, they want giant talking gorillas and Bizarro-Computo!

Redartz said...

Doug: glad you mentioned Enemy Ace. I've only recently discovered that book's appeal; great story and Kubert artwork. Of course, "The Hammer" is quite an interesting character; a novel approach of humanizing a fellow who would have been our nation's enemy (hence the name!).

One other observation regarding Amazing Spiderman #31: it featured one additional debut, Professor Miles Warren (later known to all Bronze Agers as the Jackal)...

david_b said...

Agreed, this was a phenominal year for the House of Ideas.. Much of the Universe was formed this year, with all the great introductions.

Not really a huge Thor (or Hulk) fanatic, but their covers in the sixties are ALWAYS the BEST. Thor's covers always showed so much dramatic power and great style.

I'd totally agree with dbutler16 about the Avengers and FF developments as TOPS for the year. I too only caught the wedding from the 1973 reprint (one of my all-time favorite comics ever) and it's spectacular in many ways, primarily because (please correct me if I'm wrong..), but it's one of the FIRST Marvel issues to bring in cameos of.. EVERYONE.

Don't know if DC ever did that earlier, but this to me really pressed the fact that Marvel was indeed one FUN universe.

Ah, but what lies ahead in the next year or so is Galactus and the 'Negative Zone' which to me really stretched Marvel readers into depicting another dimension of wonder, and was Kirby at his artistic ZENITH.

Sphinx Magoo said...

As to the question about why Batman had a team-up title and not Superman... I think that editor Mort Weisinger had a pretty tight hold on his Superman characters and had a reputation for not wanting to share. That's why Superman appeared so rarely in Justice League and Supergirl appeared not at all in Teen Titans. Weisinger said it was so that his characters wouldn't get overexposed, but the effect was that Superman and company lived in their own little world. Meanwhile Batman appeared regularly with Superman in World's Finest (a Weisinger-edited title, by the way), so we know Batman's editor wasn't as tight on controlling Batman's appearances. Since Batman's titles weren't selling as well as Superman's, the Batman family couldn't afford to be as isolationist.

Ray Tomczak said...

the previous commenter is pretty much dead on about B&B. In an interview published in The Comics Journal a couple of years back, Haney said he'd wanted Superman to be book's star, but Weisinger wouldn't allow it, so he turned to Batman.

Anonymous said...

B&B was not, originally, a Batman team-up title. It had varied team-ups starting with #50 (Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter, Atom and Flash, Aquaman and Hawkman). Batman first appeared in #59 but did not co-star regularly until #67-71, when DC was trying to cash in on the character's popularity from the TV show. The over-exposure provoked a backlash and Batman was not in #72 or #73; then, with #74, he began his uninterrupted run as the star (or co-star) of B&B. Ironically, that was after the Batmania fad was starting to pass.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of having a co-star so powerful that any teammate becomes a fifth wheel...that may be one of the reasons for taking Thor and Iron Man out of the Avengers. Although my impression was that having members without their own solo strips simplified the cross-continuity problems. Stan Lee may have been tired of, "How can Thor be in New York with the Avengers fighting Zemo when in his own comic he's in Asgard fighting trolls?" And over at DC, having Wonder Girl in the Titans was like having Superboy in the JLA. Presumably, they wanted a token female member. Supergirl would not have been an anachronism, but then there would have been that same "fifth wheel" problem her cousin caused in team-ups.

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